State Watch

Kentucky high court clears way for legislature to rein in governor’s COVID-19 emergency powers

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Saturday issued a ruling clearing the way for several bills limiting Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) coronavirus-related emergency powers after telling a circuit court that it should not have issued an injunction against the legislation.

One of the bills that took aim at Beshear’s emergency powers would require the Kentucky legislature to vote to extend the governor’s COVID-19 regulations and emergency orders or have them face expiration after 30 days, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.

Beshear was able to secure an injunction from Franklin Circuit Court blocking that legislation in March.

However, the state’s high court said that the complaint by Beshear “does not present a substantial legal question that would necessitate staying the effectiveness of the legislation” and argued that bills had been passed lawfully, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.

As a result, the court told Franklin Circuit Court to dissolve its injunction, clearing the way for the legislation to be implemented.

In a statement to The Hill, Crystal Staley, a spokeswoman for Beshear, said that “the court’s order will dissolve Kentucky’s entire state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic. It either eliminates or puts at risk large amounts of funding, steps we have taken to increase our health care capacity, expanded meals for children and families, measures to fight COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, worker’s compensation for front-line workers who contract COVID-19 as well as the ability to fight price gouging.”

She noted that the governor “has had the courage to make unpopular decisions in order to keep Kentuckians safe — the court has removed much of his ability to do so moving forward.”

The ruling is considered a win for Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) and the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

“For months, we have maintained that the Governor must work with the General Assembly during the COVID-19 crisis. Today, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed with our position. This is not a novel concept; in fact, it’s the bedrock of our system of government,” Cameron said in a statement on Saturday.

“We hope the Governor will now consult with our General Assembly and find consensus on what is needed to protect Kentuckians,” he added.

The legal defeat follows a ruling by a federal judge last week that temporarily blocked a mask mandate in schools from taking effect, a ruling that applies to only private schools, according to the Courier Journal.

Tags Andy Beshear COVID-19 Daniel Cameron Kentucky
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